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Reaching the national stage

Reaching the national stage

by Kirk Jessome

With his team prepared to enter the busiest portion of their competition season, Dalhousie Tigers cross country and track and field head coach Rich Lehman has received the news that he will now have another team to look after, on a much bigger scale. 

Lehman has been named as a team coach of the Athletics Canada U18 NACAC team that will head to Costa Rica this summer. The NACAC competitions feature different age groups from U18, U23 as well as the senior championships from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. With his selection, Lehman will have a chance to work with the best U18 athletes the country has to offer in track and field. 

Being named to a national team in track and field is a huge step for a coach. There is a small group of coaches that are at an elite level across different events and are named to multiple national teams each year, and breaking into the group can help a coach’s career tremendously. 

He will be coaching middle distance athletes for the event. Being involved with young athletes of such a high caliber can also help the coach of a university program in the future from a recruiting standpoint. 

“I get to be around the best 17-year olds in the country. It isn’t a recruiting event, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind,” says Lehman. “I’d like everything I do to help the Dalhousie track and field team, so that aspect will always be on my mind.” 

Lehman has held many positions as a coach in track and field for clubs, as well as an assistant coach with the Tigers before moving to the head coaching position. He was also named as a coach for the Canada Summer Games team this past summer. 

It wasn’t until he was working with athletes that were at an elite level that Lehman believed that he deserved to be coaching teams at the same level. 

“I have now been working with athletes who have become national champions as well as athletes named to national teams.” Lehman explains. “Colleen Wilson and Matt McNeil being named to the FISU team was also a very exciting moment, but there isn’t just one that stands out more than others.” 

Now that he is among the elite groups of coaches in the country, Lehman has his eyes set to the future, but the focus is always on his athletes first. 

“I would much rather coach one of my athletes to the highest level, and then watch them on the live-stream from home than to just go by myself with athletes that I don’t personally coach,” continued Lehman. “My dream is to be named to a big national team and be able to coach one of my athletes who was also named.” 

When specifically looking at teams in the future, Lehman plans to stay humble and work his way through the ranks. 

“I don’t want to say the ‘O-word,’ but of course it’s always on the mind of a coach as the end goal,” says Lehman. “It starts with age group national teams, and then eventually working my way up to senior national teams and being able to travel to the higher-level events.”  

Before he heads to Costa Rica this summer, Lehman looks to coach the Tigers track and field teams to two more AUS championships, which would be the women’s 28th consecutive title.